Taking a new route

Features - Fleet Management

After utilizing waste management software for its account management needs, Friedman Recycling Companies doubled down to optimize its commercial routing operations.

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June 3, 2020

Friedman Recycling Companies is a Phoenix-based provider of recycling, solid waste control and secure data destruction services throughout the Southwest. Founded in 1977, the company started off as a small neighborhood buy-back center for recyclables before branching out to offer commercial, industrial and residential waste and recycling services.

According to Friedman Recycling Companies President Morris Friedman, the company’s commercial offerings, which compose the foundation of the company’s accounts, include mom-and-pop shops all the way up to hospitals, big-box stores and Fortune 500 companies.

With a diverse and growing range of customers to keep track of, Friedman says the company made the decision to invest in Encore waste management software from Jacksonville, Florida-based Core Computing Solutions, now a part of Routeware Global, roughly 15 years ago to help integrate its back-office functions with its front-end collection operations.

“What attracted us to the Encore product was that we could start the process of tracking our customer activity in the dispatch office. Starting from creating a dispatch ticket or a service ticket to after the account was serviced and they would come in across our scale, we could pull up that same transaction on the scale side and follow it through our receiving side of the office and bill out the transaction all under one software,” Friedman explains.

Friedman says after using the system to synchronize its account transactions, the waste and recycling services provider began to engage with Core to help develop dispatching functionality suited to the company’s needs. This led to Friedman using Encore’s dispatching system more heavily, and eventually, to having the company’s onboard computers and software installed in its trucks.

“We went from just using Encore’s dispatching functionality to help log the start of a transaction with our client base to now using it actually to fully dispatch and track our trucks, as well,” Friedman says. “We were able to use this to create reoccurring routes and live dispatch our trucks, where before we were using paper dispatching every time we needed to create a ticket, and the driver had to physically stop in the office and pick up the ticket, go service the client, and come back in. Now, we’re able to live dispatch them and send an order directly to drivers’ tablets inside the trucks.”

In addition to helping improve the efficiency of its drivers, Friedman Recycling began using onboard software to better track and manage loads. This allowed drivers to use tablets to take pictures of contaminated loads as they were being serviced and virtually attach these images to the client’s ticket so they could be notified and billed automatically in real time if necessary.

Beyond contamination, Friedman says that the image capture functionality of the software allows the company to notify customers when there may be issues with collection.

“Because time is money and money is time, we do charge our clients for pickup services,” Friedman says. “So, if we get to a client and the container is blocked or we don’t have access to the container for one reason or another, we’re able to document that instantaneously by taking a photo of the truck that’s parked in front of the container or the gate that’s locked or whatever the reason might be we can’t get to the container. We can then send that right to the client to notify them what the issue might be and then that is logged in the client’s history so it stays in our database.”

He says that since Encore preserves the account history with each client, if there are ever discrepancies with billing, Friedman is able to provide documentation showing any incidental charges that may have been affiliated with a given customer.

In-house accountability

Although the Encore software has been instrumental in tracking Friedman’s accounts, it has also helped the company better manage its fleet operations. Friedman says the company’s managers are able to review a driver’s routing information to determine how efficient and effective that person is on the road.

“The software helps hold our drivers accountable for making sure that they’re running the routes the way that we want them to run the routes,” he says. “So, when we’re doing an evaluation of a driver or we’re having productivity issues with a driver, or conversely, a driver is excelling and completing routes quicker than we anticipated, we’re able to access that information. The map can show us exactly how the driver ran the route, where he stopped, how long he was at that stop, where he went to his next stop, so we’re really able to sit down and have productive meetings and either give them [positive feedback] or say, ‘Hey, we need your help in expediting how we’re getting this route completed.’”

Friedman says that although there was some initial pushback from drivers about changing how they operate, overall, his team has been receptive to deploying this software.

“We’ve been blessed to have some pretty tenured drivers,” Friedman says. “Some have been with us for more than 20 years, so any time you make a change, they can be a little skeptical. But even some of our more senior drivers understood that it could be a benefit to them even if they were conscious about not wanting to make a mistake in using the software or putting in the wrong information in the tablets.”

After some initial trepidation, Friedman says the company was able to get buy-in with its staff once they saw that managers were leveraging the software’s information to improve processes, not litigate driver behavior.

“Some drivers might have been a little bit skeptical about Big Brother watching them and being held accountable in a way where we didn’t allow them to do their jobs the way they need to do their jobs, because when you are out in the field, you need to be adaptive,” he says. “If there’s a traffic accident or there’s construction on the road or there is some other variable that causes delays, we don’t want drivers to feel that some of that flexibility [and the benefit of the doubt] was taken away from them. But we’ve been able to say, ‘Listen, we’re using this software to help us as a company. We’re not here to watch you as a driver specifically, we’re trying to make the overall company more efficient and a little bit stronger with our customer service.’ That’s what we’re looking for, we’re not looking to get any drivers in trouble. So, after working through that with them a little bit, everyone got pretty comfortable with what we were doing.”

Expanding its horizons

Friedman says that thus far, the company has primarily leveraged this routing functionality and tracking for its commercial accounts, although it has also used it for mapping residential routes to make sure these are streamlined.

Encore is deployed on more than 40 of the company’s 60 trucks, with Friedman planning to continue to deploy this fleet management software in varied applications to fine-tune its operations in the future. He says just this year, it has been instrumental in adapting to changes in accounts because of company closures related to COVID-19. Moving forward, Friedman says the company is planning to outfit its trucks with Core’s in-cab cameras to better track driver behavior and the exterior of the cab for greater liability protection and container monitoring.

Although incorporating this technology took some time and buy-in from company staff, Friedman says that it has paid dividends from both a personnel and customer relations standpoint.

“It’s definitely made us stronger as an organization for a couple of reasons. One, it shows our team members that we’re willing to invest in the company and invest in them and we’re able and willing to take advantage of new technologies to make everybody’s job a little bit better, a little bit easier and a lot more safe,” Friedman says. “Secondly, it has helped with our clients. They too are interested in making sure that we’re able to service them in the most efficient and safe manner. And with this technology allowing us to give real-time feedback, that really helps them to be proactive in being able to manage their recycling and waste management programs they put in place. And thirdly, it has helped with the overall management of the company—we feel more confident taking on projects that may have felt a little out of our realm in the past because we have this technology that has allowed us to expand our horizons a little bit further.”

The author is the editor of Waste Today and can be reached at aredling@gie.net.